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Stallone II

After years of muscling his way across the screen, Sylvester Stallone seeks a different label: serious actor.
Gordon Mott
From the Print Edition:
Sylvester Stallone, Mar/Apr 98

(continued from page 11)

Stallone: I don't have great relish for those years. I don't despise the people I worked with or the studios. I despise myself for not applying what I know is the best of my abilities. I just felt as though I accepted certain half-baked concepts and went with them.

CA: Because it was easy?

Stallone: It's a very delicate premise. If you accept a job, quite often you are not supposed to make waves. And in making waves quite often you are trying to make the project better. But this is where egos clash. Egos are titanic in proportion and quite often you are labeled with the reputation of being difficult. Being difficult to me is someone who does not want to come out of their trailer, who is drunk, who is a libertine. But someone who is very consumed with making a better product is not being difficult, he is being exploratory, he is being investigative. He is not doing this for money. It would be very easy for him to take the money and run. So there is a balance. I had been involved in other projects and I had gotten a terrible reputation. Many people did not want to work with me. So I thought in the future I would just accept the position and go with it; and I'm not proud of it. Copland was my first time working in unison with a director and producer that gave me pleasurable results.

CA: They weren't sold on the idea at first, right?

Stallone: No, I believe they had been looking for John Cusack, and a couple of other people had been mentioned. I wasn't sold on the idea, either. I thought I was going to play the Ray Liotta part, which is much more, the big, live, infectiously energetic outsider. I liked that idea. No, they said, we want you to be the fat, slow, dim-witted, hearing-impaired sheriff. And I said, "Thank you. Exactly what I've been looking for. A sexy role. Thank you." But once I got into it I thought, "This is fascinating." I really enjoy those kinds of parts. Like when I did "Saturday Night Live," to be able even for four and five minutes at a time to move from character to character--that fascinates me. That's the craft if we can do it. Quite often actors are chastised for stretching. They are chastised for not stretching and then they are rebuffed for stretching, like: "Why don't you go back to what you do?"

CA: But that's the public, isn't it? Joseph Campbell describes society's need for mythological characters, and you occupy one of those niches in American society. Call it Hercules or whatever, but that's who you are in people's minds. Isn't it really tough to shed that?

Stallone: You can't shed it. All you can do is have people be willing to suspend their expectations for a little while and accept you in another role. But deep down that is who you are to them. So you'll never achieve the purity of losing yourself in different characters. They'll always say, "Yeah, yeah, that's Sean Connery, that's James Bond." He's great in this and he's great in that and all these wonderful things, he's great in Russia House, but he's still James Bond. And that's not anything wrong with the actor, that's human nature.

You know the strongest impression is the primary impression. Our first blast at something just usually is the most lasting. You have to be real careful how you present yourself. Having done multiple sequels, the die has been cast. All I can hope for is to look for the versatility aspect of a career, but certainly not one that's going to make people forget where I came from. And I don't think I really want to, because I'm not ashamed by any means. You know, people never really understood Rambo. I shouldn't say that; a certain faction dismissed Rambo as a violent tool for the right wing. Whereas [although] Rambo was never anti-government, [he] worked on his own, received no financial remuneration and was always in the business of extracting prisoners at the cost of his own life. I did not understand the criticism. His was much more of a martyr position than one of being proactive; he was never proactive. He was happy to stay in the jungle. If you noticed, every time they came to him. But that is not the way it was interpreted. Through political cartoons and this interpretation, Rambo is as close as we get to Tyrannosaurus Rex, this Genghis Kahn of the Third World, but please, that's not true.

CA: At one point, wasn't Rambo labeled a part of the military-industrial complex's effort to shift public perception about Vietnam?

Stallone: Absolutely. That's what happened. Rambo really became a tool of right-wing imperialism as opposed to James Bond, who was much more liberal in his approach. When [the first Rambo film] came out, there were other films like Platoon and Coming Home and Born on the Fourth of July, which threw Rambo into an even further Black Knight situation, where he was the aggressor and Grim Reaper. I understand it, because Rambo was such a physical character; it's tough for us to think he's vulnerable by any means. Still, the first [Rambo film] I'm very proud of. The second one went into a whole different exploratory area--it became cartoonish. Bigger than life. That's where it went into Joseph Campbell. You know, the creation of a mythic hero because obviously what he did could never be accomplished. But the first one could. He suffered a lot worse in the first one and survived.

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